This Week In Psychedelics: The science behind FTO’s Compass patent challenges, living with HPPD, big pharma invests in psychedelics, and more
Happy new year! Welcome back to The Microdose. We took a short break from weekly round-ups in late December, but we’ve got the latest updates for you — let’s get into it:
The science behind FTO’s Compass patent challenges. In December, we reported on psychedelic nonprofit Freedom to Operate’s petition to the US Patent and Trademark Office for post-grant review of one of Compass’s psilocybin patents, essentially challenging the validity of Compass’s polymorph claims. On December 22, FTO filed a second petition on another Compass patent based on the same evidence they’d used in their first petition. We reported that the data FTO cited in those petitions was in press at the journal Acta Crystallographica Section C; it was published online three days later. The authors — researchers affiliated with the Usona Institute, the University of Wisconsin, the Alexander Shulgin Research Institute, Illinois’s North Central College and the Illinois Institute of Technology — analyzed the crystalline forms in psilocybin samples produced between 1963 and 2021. They found three primary forms– Hydrate A, Polymorph A, and Polymorph B– and determined that the polymorph Compass claimed as a new invention is actually a mixture of long-known forms: roughly 81% Polymorph A and 19% Polymorph B. Their conclusion? “Revision is recommended on characterizations in recently granted patents.”
Decriminalization in a Washington town. Port Townsend, Washington is a small town situated on a peninsula on the Salish Sea just outside Olympic National Park. In late December, the town’s city council voted unanimously to decriminalize entheogens, joining about a dozen other cities in the U.S. For more than two years, the council had weighed Resolution 21-088, which makes enforcement of existing drug laws against entheogens the lowest priority for the city’s police.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
Living with HPPD. Wallpaper that looks like it’s melting and breathing, auras and halos emanating from the TV, golden silhouettes lingering in midair — these might all sound like visual effects from a psychedelic experience, but Ed Prideaux says he experienced them more than a month after he took LSD. In fact, years later, Prideaux still experiences lingering visual effects from his psychedelic use, a condition called Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD). In a piece published by Mad in America, Prideaux writes about the history of HPPD, the experiences of people grappling with the condition, the lack of research on the topic, and how the psychedelic field should respond. “The ‘psychedelic renaissance’ in psychiatry may well be ‘promising,’” Prideaux writes. “But the harms of psychedelic drugs, including distressing perceptual changes, are real and need to be better known.”
Big pharma and psychedelics. The burgeoning business of psychedelic drug development has spawned dozens of new companies and venture capital investments. So far, big pharma has mostly shied away from psychedelics, but that could be changing: the McQuade Center for Strategic Research and Development, a U.S.-based arm of Japanese drug giant Otsuka Pharmaceutical, is investing $5 million in psychedelic compounds under development at Mindset Pharma. (Previously, Otsuka made a 2020 investment in Compass.)
Models of consciousness and the psychedelic experience. We know psychedelics alter mental states, but how, exactly, is still elusive. In the journal Brain, researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland compare and contrast the two best-known models of psychedelic action in the brain: the cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical loop model developed by University of Zurich researchers Katrin Preller, Franz Vollenweider, and their colleagues, and the REBUS model developed by Robin Carhart-Harris and Karl Friston. The researchers introduce a new model for consideration, called the cortico-claustral-cortical model — it focuses on a thin strip of the brain called the claustrum, which Francis Crick and Christof Koch once described as “easily overlooked” and “enigmatic.” The claustrum appears to coordinate activity across the brain’s cortex — that coordination might play an important role in crafting our experience of typical consciousness, so much so that the claustrum has been called “the conductor of consciousness.” Psychedelics might interrupt the claustrum’s work, resulting in the classic psychedelic experience — but models only go so far. To truly understand which aspects of these models might actually explain psychedelics’ effects on the brain, scientists will need to continue designing and executing careful, mechanistic studies, the authors write.
UT Austin announces their new Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy.
The New Yorker reports on the potential of ketamine therapy, as well as its perils.
Psilocybin Alpha is releasing a five-part series reviewing 2021 highlights in the world of psychedelics, and trends to keep an eye on in 2022. The first installment, about psychedelic drug policy reform, was posted this week, with new posts released weekly.
Neo.Life details the journey to reconcile the “two competing visions” of the future of psychedelics: those drawn to the cold, hard science, and those drawn to healing and spiritual connection.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend, and stay tuned on Monday for 5 Questions, our weekly Q&A with a leader in the psychedelics space.
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